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National Pollution Control Day 2017: 5 ways in which air pollution affects your mental health

Did you know air pollution can cause depression and other mental disorders?

Written by Shaloo Tiwari |Updated : December 2, 2017 7:55 AM IST

A report by Centre for Science and Environment(CSE) recently revealed that air pollution is responsible for 30 percent of premature deaths and mental diseases in India. While every third child in Delhi, which is the worst affected by air pollution, has impaired lungs other cities in India have increasing deadly RSPM levels too. In fact, it is said that by 2030 air pollution death toll might reach up to 60,000. The death toll might even increase. The situation is quite alarming and to add to it, you aren't even safe indoors as indoor pollution is on a rise too. Did you know that your household dust could be causing endocrine disorders and obesity? However, while the ill effects of air pollution on physical health is addressed quite a lot, there isn't much awareness about the way air pollution affects the mental health. Here are a few ways in which air pollution affects our mental health:

  • Increased anxiety: Air pollution can really mess with your mental health. It can increase the sense of fear and worsen your anxiety big time. According to a study, it causes a lot of behavioural changes as you spend less time outside, resort to a more sedentary lifestyle or increase your screen time which can impact the psychological health by causing distress and social isolation.
  • Sick building syndrome: Staying indoors offer no respite either. Due to an increase in the air pollution levels, the contaminants from motor vehicle exhaust, plumbing vents and building exhausts can enter the building through poorly located air intake vents, windows etc. which causes the sick building syndrome. While staying in or around such a building might affect your physical health it also affects your psychological health in many ways like excessive stress, poor communication and interpersonal relationship.
  • Cognitive functioning: The pollutants especially, fine particulate matter interfere with the development and functioning of adults. Which means the toxicity of the pollution affects the cognitive function and cognitive performance among adults.
  • Depression: Air pollution is also linked to depression alongside anxiety. According to a study, long-term exposure to air pollution may increase depression and is one of the causes of depression. Due to which people resort to antidepressants and it, in turn, worsens the situation.
  • Psychological health risks related to Asthma: Asthma is one of the major results of increased air pollution. While we very well know the physical effects of asthma, the health condition is known to increase psychological health issues too. According to studies, asthma is one of the major depressing disorders. It is also proven to help cause other mood disorder and bipolar affective disorders.


Van Lieshout, R. J., & MacQueen, G. (2008). Psychological Factors in Asthma. Allergy, Asthma, and Clinical Immunology : Official Journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 4(1), 12 28.

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1: Clifford A, Lang L, Chen R, Anstey KJ, Seaton A. Exposure to air pollution and cognitive functioning across the life course--A systematic literature review. Environ Res. 2016 May;147:383-98. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2016.01.018. Epub 2016 Mar 4. Review. PubMed PMID: 26945620.

Pun, V. C., Manjourides, J., & Suh, H. (2017). Association of Ambient Air Pollution with Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Older Adults: Results from the NSHAP Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(3), 342 348.

Joshi, S. M. (2008). The sick building syndrome. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 12(2), 61 64.

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